... using Blosxom to retrace my steps

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Fri, 18 Jul 2008

HTML headers and PHP

That was easy ... Months ago I played around with PHP and coded an RSS feed for my photo galleries. Everything looked fine but Google Reader just wouldn't let me subscribe to the feed. I wondered why and somehow got the idea that it might have something to do with headers.

Turns out I was right. Today, when I read Binny VA's post, "Rules for Creating an RSS Feed", I realised that PHP has a function to send headers. It's called, er, header.

So I looked it up in the PHP manual ("header - Send a raw HTTP header") and then had another look (using wget) at both my photo feed and a feed which I knew to be technically OK. This still didn't give me a clue. However, I found a line in my feed which I had commented out - for what reason totally beats me - and which started "header" ... Deleting the 2 commenting-out slashes and uploading the file again was all that was necessary to make the feed acceptable to Google Reader.

D'oh!

(The feed for my photo galleries is here.)

Posted on 18 Jul 2008 at 22:06 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Sat, 14 Jun 2008

Moving files from a Psion to a normal computer

Thanks to my brother-in-law, I got hold of a Psion Netbook, a very small, very light subnotebook which runs for some 9 hours on a single battery pack. It's a fascinating machine - yet clearly something from the past. These great thingies aren't produced anymore, the one I've got dates back to 2000, I think: it's prehistoric.

You can do a lot more with a Psion than just write texts: it comes with a spreadsheet, a contact manager, a calendar, an e-mail client, a web browser, a database and a few more applications. What I did, however, last night on our flight back from Europe, when inconsiderate people in the row behind us kept talking and laughing so I couldn't sleep, was write a diary of our wonderful trip to Sicily. This was lots more fun than reading or listening to music.

Back home, I realised that the Psion uses proprietary, rather peculiar file formats. Apparently it came with a software which converted files as they were transferred to an MS Windoze PC; you use a special cable for this, which connects to a serial port. I don't want anything to do with this: why can't I just copy my Psion files from the Psion CF card (16 MB - was no doubt hugely expensive in 2000) using my cheap "8 in 1" USB card reader? Well, I can - but then I can't do anything with the files.

Which is where Psiconv comes in, a conversion utility which runs under Linux. Its author, Frodo Looijaard, says it is "no longer in active development" and its latest version is from 2005, but what do I care! It comes as a 511 kB gzipped tarball, which you extract; then it's the usual sequence of configure, make, make install. In order to convert a Psion "Word" file to a nice-looking HTML file, you do:

psiconv -o outputfile.html inputfile

Posted on 14 Jun 2008 at 19:09 in /technology. -- Permalink

Fri, 25 Apr 2008

Making easy things really, really complicated: Windows XP

Starting point: a Windows XP system with a single account, named "Administrator", which has worked fine (in Windows terms) for many months.

Aim: Create a second account ("limited", i.e. without admin privileges).

Sounds commonplace, doesn't it. Well, it isn't. Not with Windows XP.

First step, create another account. Turns out it's impossible to create a non-admin account here so I create a 2nd admin one and try to change it to a "limited" account after that. This fails.

So I create a 3rd account, and yes, I can make it a "limited" one. That's not too bad, I think: I've got my non-admin account now, and the 2nd admin account won't do a lot of damage. Right?

Wrong. I log off and try to log on again but my original "Administrator" account isn't displayed on the so-called "Welcome screen" anymore. I log on to my new admin account (the one I never wanted to create but can't get rid of anymore), which is an entirely new account, e.g. it keeps inviting me to "take a tour of Windows XP". I can, however, see that all the files of my original "Administrator" account are still in place. It's not that this account has been deleted or something. Apparently my problem boils down to the fact that my original account isn't displayed on the "Welcome screen" so I can't log onto it anymore.

After a bit of googling, I find that this isn't supposed to be a bug or whatever by Microsoft - it's a feature! I can get around the problem by disabling the "Welcome screen", which is supposed to be an advanced feature of Windows XP because it's so "comfortable". After disabling it, I have to type in the name of the account I want to log on to, I can't just click on an account. I just wonder, what is comfortable about not being able to access one's main account in a comfortable way? What is comfortable about the account one has always used simply disappearing from view? Who on earth would want to have an account which isn't listed when you log on, an account you can't see, an account you can't use? Must be an advanced feature of Microsoft logic.

Oh, and the 2nd account with full admin privileges, the one I never wanted - I still can't get rid of it. Even going back to an earlier "system restore point" (another such "advanced feature") didn't work. I'm forced to live with 2 admin accounts from now on.

And did you know that Outlook can export mailboxes to formats which don't hold the complete data? E.g. when you export e-mails in dBase format, you lose all recipient and date information. That's soooo useful! And you don't even get a warning.

And when you delete shortcut icons on the desktop of a non-admin account, they will disappear from the desktop of the admin account too. When you create new shortcuts in the admin account, however, they will not appear on the desktop of the non-admin account. Isn't that well thought out!

Congratulations Microsoft! You have definitely invented the worst way of spending lots and lots of time to no use whatsoever. It's not even fun.

Posted on 25 Apr 2008 at 13:52 in /technology. -- Permalink

Wed, 23 Apr 2008

Wuala

Today, after some weeks of impatience, I finally received an e-mail inviting me to be an "early adopter" of the alpha version of Wuala. Wuala is an application for different operating systems which makes storing and sharing files and folders over the internet quite easy. The idea is basically to trade some space on one's own HDD for space on other people's computers, but even without this you get 1 GB from Wuala. All files are encrypted in order to protect them from people who haven't been authorised to access them by their owner.

"After a quick download, Wuala is ready." In Windows XP, I found this to be the case - not quite in Linux, though. Apart from some packages (portmap, nfs-common and a few dependencies) I had to install, which are mentioned in a Readme file, and adding a line to my fstab, I also had to get a certain version of Java (sun-java6-jre) and finally copy a file into a different directory; this I only learned after searching the Wuala forum for the error messages I had got. Still, this is just the amount of trial and error which is normal for Linux (and is part of the fun!) - and so far Wuala is only an alpha version.

Once it works it's great. Very useful, very convenient, very easy to use, very fast. I'm impressed.

Posted on 23 Apr 2008 at 22:35 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Mon, 21 Apr 2008

Changing file time stamps with jhead

After I transfer photos from my phone to my computer, the files don't have a meaningful time stamp (01 Jan 1970). They do, however, have Exif data. jhead comes in handy:

jhead -ft *.JPG

This will set the file time stamp according to the Exif information. After that, happy sorting ...

Posted on 21 Apr 2008 at 13:34 in /technology. -- Permalink

Sat, 19 Apr 2008

People actually use this crap!

BinnyVA is dumbfounded when he realises "that people actually use the office packages daily". So am I. Why would I ever bother to use OpenOffice or, indeed, Micro$$$$$$ Office? Only because other people just can't kick the habit, so I'm occasionally forced to stoop to that level for the sake of cooperation. The content of the documents I get from others is - when I'm lucky - plain text (but hey, sure, you're welcome to save 364 bits of text as a 32 kB file!) or - when I'm not so lucky - something I can convert into plain text within an hour or so. Gee, some people use Excel to make lists of e-mail addresses ... Copy and paste? No, they type them!

Talking of BinnyVA, sometimes he's crazy - but in a really great way!

Posted on 19 Apr 2008 at 13:27 in /technology. -- Permalink

Thu, 17 Apr 2008

Picasa web albums: surrender everything to Google

"By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services."

In other words, Google can use whatever you post basically for whatever they like - and you can't get out of this ever again.

"You agree that this licence includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

"You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this licence shall permit Google to take these actions."

Google can take your stuff and give it to others so they can use it, and Google can even make changes to your pictures or whatever you have posted. Once you post something, you lose any control over it.

These passages (from section 11, "Content licence from you", of the "Google Terms of Service") are the reason why I'm not using Google's Picasa web albums.

Posted on 17 Apr 2008 at 19:53 in /technology. -- Permalink

Sun, 13 Apr 2008

Ruby "The Word" display script

I wrote a Ruby script which takes two different "Das Wort" - "The Word" - "每日金句" files (e.g. in German and in Chinese) and displays the watchword for a given date in both languages. Fun! Next step, I hope, will be HTML or - even better - graphic output; maybe I'll take a look at Tk.

Posted on 13 Apr 2008 at 22:09 in /technology. -- Permalink

Wed, 09 Apr 2008

Bart PE, DriveImageXML; hypermail, namazu

I don't seem to leave a lot of traces recently - electronic, computer-related traces I mean. Nothing worth blosxoming about ... Instead I've become rather active again in my "entries" blog.

I managed, after a couple of false starts, to burn a functioning Bart PE bootable CD with DriveImageXML, a nice piece of software for making backups of Windows XP computers, browsing the files included in the backup (!) and, obviously, restoring data.

Another nice application is hypermail, which converts e-mails stored in the mailbox format to HTML pages. It creates several index pages so you can sort e-mail messages according to date, author, thread etc. It's a great tool for archiving e-mails in a format which is easy to use - opening HTML pages in a browser is so much more convenient than importing old mailbox files with an e-mail client. I finally got round to archiving all the old e-mails still stored on my old laptop and, inspired by an article in the c't computer magazine, created a namazu search index for them.

Posted on 09 Apr 2008 at 17:00 in /technology. -- Permalink

Fri, 28 Mar 2008

Skype 2 for Linux, but no video

I successfully updated to Skype 2 for Linux today - it works. However I can't get my webcam to work at all anymore. This doesn't seem to be a Skype problem.

Posted on 28 Mar 2008 at 15:15 in /technology. -- Permalink

Wed, 26 Mar 2008

Ubuntu and an MS mouse

That's something - one of the many things - which I really like about Ubuntu: it works with all sorts of hardware out of the box. More out of curiosity than out of any real need (I like using that red thingy in the middle of my Thinkpad keyboard), I plugged in an old Microsoft optical mouse which I found in a cupboard. I had to clean it first with Kao Bleach, real poison. No little box announcing "Found new hardware ...". Even the scroll wheel works just like this.

Posted on 26 Mar 2008 at 15:29 in /technology. -- Permalink

Fri, 14 Mar 2008

Latest Snort on an ancient box

I installed Snort on my old laptop, finally got registered as a user, downloaded and installed up-to-date Snort rules. Now running Snort doesn't bind any resources on the computer I'm using every day and everyone on my network can feel safe from those evil hackers - although this set-up probably won't help reduce our electricity bills.

Posted on 14 Mar 2008 at 17:39 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

SuSE update

After more than 3 months (109 days, to be precise) I took my old Toshiba laptop and booted it. What a nice box ... Trying to update SuSE 10, I ran into a problem with some file signature. I was puzzled before I realised that the date displayed on the screen was some time in 2000. Apparently the buffer battery had died since I had last used the computer (the regular battery wasn't in place). As a result, Yast had communicated to the server that it had last been updated minus two thousand and something days ago.

Correcting the date and time settings did the trick. Nice to know that SuSE 10 is still being maintained, and that my ancient box (six or seven years old?) is still up to date.

Posted on 14 Mar 2008 at 15:22 in /technology. -- Permalink

Mon, 18 Feb 2008

S500i, Bluetooth, Ubuntu 7.10, X60 - success

I didn't get this to work at first; but somewhere in the Ubuntu forums (I forgot where), someone said: "install gnome-vfs-obexftp". Which I did. Now I can access all the good stuff on my phone in Nautilus (right-click the Bluetooth icon in the panel, then click "Browse Device").

Also, sudo hidd --connect (with the MAC address of the phone - hcitool scan) lets me use the phone as a remote control (i.e. wireless mouse etc.) for my computer. (See the useful entry, "BluetoothRemoteControl", in the Community Ubuntu Documentation.) This probably works for other Sony Ericsson phones too.

sudo su
echo enable > /proc/acpi/ibm/bluetooth

sudo /etc/init.d/bluetooth restart

hcitool scan

sudo hidd --connect [MAC address]

Posted on 18 Feb 2008 at 10:05 in /technology/phone. -- Permalink

Wed, 13 Feb 2008

Phone, Bluetooth, Ubuntu, X60

Trying to connect my new mobile, a Sony Ericsson S500i, to my laptop. The phone doesn't have infrared but Bluetooth. (Last spring I had some success connecting my Nokia 6020 via infrared.) Thierry Nicola has some useful hints on his nice blog, William Brown Street.

bluez-utils was already installed. Turning on the Bluetooth device was no problem (as root: echo enable > /proc/acpi/ibm/bluetooth). After I started the Bluetooth services (sudo /etc/init.d/bluetooth restart), a Bluetooth icon popped up in my panel - lovely to behold! hciconfig -a showed me that the device on the computer works fine. hidd --search didn't produce any output (other than "Searching ...") so I tried hcitool scan instead, which gave me the address and name of my phone. Excellent!

However, with hidd -connect (with the address of the phone) I got: "Can't get device information: host is down". Will I be able to get beyond this point? Is the S500i to new for Ubuntu 7.10?

Unsurprisingly, the Bluetooth connection was up and running (in both directions) within seconds between the phone and B.'s MacBook. I can even use the phone as a remote control for the computer.

Posted on 13 Feb 2008 at 11:49 in /technology/phone. -- Permalink

Sat, 09 Feb 2008

My Taiwan wiki thing

These days I'm "working" on my personal Taiwan wiki thing, which is why I seldom post stuff here. I'm getting to know MoinMoin better and better - it's a really nice piece of software, very very well thought out, fun to use. Finding out more and more about Taiwan and adding relevant information to my wiki is a lot of fun, too. What I read about this country, mainly on Wikitravel pages, is very promising.

I look forward to our trip. Should I take my computer? The AC adapter will work fine with Taiwan's different voltage (115 V).

Posted on 09 Feb 2008 at 21:31 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Wed, 06 Feb 2008

Burning CDs and DVDs under Linux

The first issue of c't, the computer and technology magazine I've subscribed to (again), has an article about burning CDs and DVDs under Linux. Once again it turns out this is extremely easy: Nautilus, the file manager which comes with Gnome, can do everything I need, and a whole lot more, and it's very comfortable to use. Brasero even supports Blue-ray discs. Modern Linux distributions work fine with all kinds of burners.

When I burned my first video DVDs, our stand-alone DVD player had problems playing them. That's strange because it's a fairly recent model and we chose it because it's supposed to play just about anything, including CD-RW, DVD-RW, VCD, DivX ... My two DVDs played fine on a different player, which is a lot older.

Posted on 06 Feb 2008 at 12:50 in /technology. -- Permalink

Fri, 01 Feb 2008

MoinMoin wiki, personal Taiwan wiki

Yesterday I installed a MoinMoin wiki on this server. I was a bit surprised that installing MoinMoin is somewhat less straightforward than installing WordPress (even though the former doesn't even use a database). In part, this seems to be the flip side of MoinMoin's flexibility; but I think there's some room for improvement regarding the documentation, too. In any event, it's always interesting to learn the basics of how such a thing works.

I think a wiki will be useful for taking notes in a structured way, e.g. in preparation of our next trips (to Taiwan and to Sicily). My personal Taiwan wiki is found at http://tstigers.net/cgi-bin/moin.cgi/Taiwan.

Posted on 01 Feb 2008 at 17:47 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Thu, 24 Jan 2008

Too stupid to use a computer

That's what I guess I am. After this Paypal problem I described yesterday and now, the solution to the weird Wordpress problem which I described in detail, and which has given me day after day of trouble, it's the only plausible explanation.

The solution: logged onto Wordpress, clear the cache and reload the page. All the icons I missed are back and, miraculously, I can save and publish posts without any problems.

I should have known: why didn't I try this earlier? What's the first thing you do after an update, even before you start fumbling with the Wordpress plugins?

Posted on 24 Jan 2008 at 17:43 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Wed, 23 Jan 2008

PayPal puzzle

We're getting a lot of spam e-mails at the office, some of which are phishing messages which appear to come from Paypal. In order to be on the safe side, I changed the "primary" e-mail address of our account and removed the office e-mail address. Unfortunately, Paypal doesn't warn you that this may lead to problems. In my case, the problem was that the "Make a donation" link on our website still used the old e-mail address, with the result that a donation was cancelled. (Paypal informed me by e-mail - to the old address - of both the donation and the cancellation.)

This kind of thing is really annoying because, apart from fees which have to paid although the money doesn't get through, there's always the risk of putting donors off. What I find most remarkable about the whole event, though, is the fact that it didn't get recorded in any way on the account. When I log in and view "all activity", there's no indication that a donation was made or cancelled. It seems that the Paypal system was unable to find our account - just because I changed the e-mail address.

Apparently, the only way for a "Make a donation" button to "know" which account the money is supposed to go to is the e-mail address associated with that account. But if this is so, then I don't understand why this isn't pointed out to a user when they change this e-mail address.

Posted on 23 Jan 2008 at 20:17 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Tue, 22 Jan 2008

Smart card relay attack

I found this interesting article on the Light Blue Touchpaper blog. Will I ever use any card again to pay for anything?

University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory, Security Group.

Posted on 22 Jan 2008 at 16:25 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Mon, 21 Jan 2008

Online banking (2)

So far, so good. aqhbci-tool works fine - but I can't enter what I believe is myPIN: it's too long. However, this might not be my PIN at all; if it isn't, I'm afraid I just don't know my PIN. Anyway it seems I have added a PIN/TAN medium, which isn't what I normally use, but with my key file I'm getting nowhere. No idea how to tell aqhbci-tool to use this file.

Helpful websites:

Konsolenbasiertes Online Banking mit Linux

AqBanking/aqhbci-tool - LinuxWiki.org (most of which is identical to the above website)

AqBanking - LinuxWiki.org

FinTS (provides HBCI details of your bank)

Posted on 21 Jan 2008 at 14:53 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Online banking: GnuCash

I'm trying to get GnuCash to work with my bank account, which I can access via HBCI. Installing GnuCash the "normal", Synaptic way didn't get me there. Downloading and compiling the gwenhwyfar (great name, isn't it!), ktoblzcheck (great in a different way!) and aqbanking libraries myself seems to work better.

Posted on 21 Jan 2008 at 14:14 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Survived an attack

I'm sometimes running Snort just for fun. Today, it recorded an attempted maclicious intrusion into my network. The "just for fun" times are over! Ignorance is bliss? I don't think so. From now on, Snort will run all the time.

01/20-20:48:09.670188 [*] [1:2329:6] MS-SQL probe response overflow attempt [*] [Classification: Attempted User Privilege Gain] [Priority: 1] {UDP} 84.134.212.178:11878 -> 192.168.1.101:40763
01/20-20:48:31.097220 [*] [1:2329:6] MS-SQL probe response overflow attempt [*] [Classification: Attempted User Privilege Gain] [Priority: 1] {UDP} 84.134.212.178:11878 -> 192.168.1.101:40763
01/20-20:48:33.606816 [*] [1:2329:6] MS-SQL probe response overflow attempt [*] [Classification: Attempted User Privilege Gain] [Priority: 1] {UDP} 84.134.212.178:11878 -> 192.168.1.101:40763
01/20-20:48:37.844447 [*] [1:2329:6] MS-SQL probe response overflow attempt [*] [Classification: Attempted User Privilege Gain] [Priority: 1] {UDP} 84.134.212.178:11878 -> 192.168.1.101:40763
01/20-20:48:46.226764 [*] [1:2329:6] MS-SQL probe response overflow attempt [*] [Classification: Attempted User Privilege Gain] [Priority: 1] {UDP} 84.134.212.178:11878 -> 192.168.1.101:40763
01/20-20:48:48.389560 [*] [1:2329:6] MS-SQL probe response overflow attempt [*] [Classification: Attempted User Privilege Gain] [Priority: 1] {UDP} 84.134.212.178:11878 -> 192.168.1.101:40763

Posted on 21 Jan 2008 at 00:02 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Wed, 16 Jan 2008

Anonymous communication

I'm reading "A survey of anonymous communication channels", by Claudia Diaz and George Danezis, which I found on the Conspicuous Chatter blog ("Introducing Anonymous Communications"). It's an introduction to different methods used for anonymous communications - highly interesting reading.

Posted on 16 Jan 2008 at 17:05 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Fri, 11 Jan 2008

Nautilus as FTP client

Although I like to use command-line tools, I've taken to uploading stuff to the web using Nautilus, the Gnome file manager. Copy and Paste (or even Drag and Drop) makes it very comfortable to use, and it has SFTP support.

Posted on 11 Jan 2008 at 16:44 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Thu, 10 Jan 2008

Ekiga instead of Skype?

I like to use free software whenever possible. Ekiga would be an obvious replacement for Skype - hey, it even works with my webcam! Something similar to "SkypeOut" is available too, and at similar rates (calling a fixed-line number in Germany: US$ 0.02; calling a mobile number in Germany: US$ 0.211). However, I'm somewhat reluctant to give my credit card information to yet another company I don't know, and I'm not sure if Ekiga works as well as Skype. Also, I chat (and sometimes talk for free) with a lot of people who are on Skype, while I don't know anybody who uses Ekiga.

Posted on 10 Jan 2008 at 17:57 in /technology/phone. -- Permalink

Converting flac to ogg ...

... is simple indeed. In a directory containing your flac files, do:

oggenc *.flac

For better quality ogg files, use the switch -q 5 (-1 is lowest quality, 10 is highest).

Posted on 10 Jan 2008 at 17:27 in /technology. -- Permalink

K2 problem solved, sort of ...

I dragged the categories, search, recent posts and links widgets into the relevant boxes (great that the left box refers to the right sidebar and the right to the left ...); now everything in the sidebars is displayed again, even on static pages and with individual entries. In other words, I had to set up the sidebars from scratch. So far, so good - but how did this happen in the first place? I didn't update or change anything, neither WordPress nor K2, and updating WordPress didn't make anything better or worse.

Posted on 10 Jan 2008 at 14:43 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

K2 sidebar problem

Suddenly, my "entries" blog has a problem with the sidebars. The theme I'm using is K2 (Release Candidate 3). Its sidebar manager has always been very slow and somewhat tricky to use. Now, the left sidebar (which I set to display the categories) has disappeared almost completely, only a blue bar at the top of the column is left. The right sidebar, which contains the search field, latest posts, blogroll and links, is displayed on the start page (also for older articles) but not on the other (static) pages or with individual posts. The sidebar editor ("Widgets" in the "Presentation" section) displays "Default sidebar" for both sidebars, informing me that the "usual sidebar" of this theme will be displayed because the 2 boxes are empty but I can drag widgets into them. I'm afraid that doing so would mess things up completely. (The problem is the same on different computers and in different browsers, so probably unrelated to the Amity website problem.) What now?

Posted on 10 Jan 2008 at 14:26 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Weird Firefox problem

The Amity website displays without any style information and without any pictures in my Firefox under Linux (2.0.0.11, Ubuntu 7.10/Gutsy). Nothing seems to be wrong with the website - it looks perfectly fine both in Galeon and in Firefox under Mac OS X, even after clearing the cache. Other websites look fine in Firefox under Linux, too. After killing and restarting Firefox, exactly the same problem. What the heck is going on here?

Posted on 10 Jan 2008 at 14:08 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Updating WordPress using Subversion

I just updated my "entries" blog using Subversion for the first time. Worked without a hitch and took no longer than a few seconds. I'm very pleased.

Posted on 10 Jan 2008 at 14:02 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Tue, 08 Jan 2008

NAN-Webserver

Yesterday I somehow stumbled on the website of Michael W. Kühn, a German maths teacher. Maybe I was looking for a Windows-based picture gallery application, which my father could use to post his photos on the web. This website is very well made and offers some real gems.

Following a link from Mr. Kühn's commented selection, I found the "NAN-Webserver", which I installed and tested today. It's a small, free webserver for Windows and the really nice thing is that it can run on a USB stick or external hard disk. It doesn't need any installation, you just unzip the downloaded file. The application comes with a "php" folder, where you can unzip the zipped Windows version of PHP, and with a "file" folder, where you can put the files you want to access at localhost. (Pointing the server to a different place is very easy, too.) This makes for a very nice portable testing environment for web pages written in PHP. Too bad the documentation is in German only, even though personally I don't mind ...

I also tried Mr. Kühn's picture gallery program. Personally, I far prefer jigl; this wonderful command-line tool can actually be made to work under Windows, but it's way too complicated for my father. I just might be able to convince him to use BilderGalerie (and FileZilla), though.

Posted on 08 Jan 2008 at 23:05 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Skype and video under Ubuntu: not really

Today I downloaded and, after solving surprisingly few problems, installed Skype 2.x beta, which offers video. However, I couldn't get it to work, it crashed before anything meaningful happened. Still, since Skype isn't provided in the Ubuntu repositories anymore (so I couldn't install it again the "normal" way, using Synaptic), I ended up with a newer, in some ways nicer version of Skype.

I did get to work my webcam, following a "How to" in the Ubuntu forums. The camera used to work before I upgraded from Feisty to Gutsy; qc-usb-messenger did the trick then but refused to do so this time. The answer was gspca-source (plus some fairly basic tweaking). Now I'm getting bad pictures from the camera in Ekiga - and terrible pictures (they actually look black-and-white) in Camorama. In other words, no substantial gain, some pain, eventually the gratification of having got something to work, sort of.

Posted on 08 Jan 2008 at 22:35 in /technology. -- Permalink

Wed, 12 Dec 2007

Burning a DVD under Linux (3)

I tried to fix the problem with the menu on my DVD - made some changes to the xml configuration file for dvdauthor, and used dvdauthor on the command line instead of QDVDauthor. What I got was a DVD+RW and a DVD-R which our DVD player refused to play: both discs were ejected automatically.

When I checked the first DVD I had burned (using QDVDauthor, no manual changes to any files), I found that the first video clip does have audio. It's just not played by our DVD player. Oh well ...

In the meantime, I've made several more MPEG files from raw digital video files with Kino. I'm now trying once more to produce a nice DVD.

Posted on 12 Dec 2007 at 11:25 in /technology. -- Permalink

Tue, 11 Dec 2007

Burning a DVD under Linux (2)

I found QDVDauthor very easy to use (it comes with a nice "quick start guide") - added my MPEG files to the project and created a menu with a background image, then created the DVD ... and that was it. Only then did I realise that, of course, this program doesn't do the burning, it just provides all the stuff which you then burn onto a DVD with whatever program you have.

So for burning I used growisofs (growisofs -Z dev/dvd hk_videos_dec2007* -dvd-compat), which worked like a breeze:

Executing 'genisoimage hk_videos_dec2007/AUDIO_TS hk_videos_dec2007/VIDEO_TS | builtin_dd of=/dev/dvd obs=32k seek=0'
I: -input-charset not specified, using utf-8 (detected in locale settings)
/dev/dvd: "Current Write Speed" is 4.1x1352KBps.

Then a lot of progress messages and finally:

Total translation table size: 0
Total rockridge attributes bytes: 0
Total directory bytes: 0
Path table size(bytes): 10
Max brk space used 0
\1726418 extents written (3371 MB)
builtin_dd: 1726432*2KB out @ average 4.0x1352KBps
/dev/dvd: flushing cache
/dev/dvd: updating RMA
/dev/dvd: closing disc

With much trepidation, I inserted the disc into the DVD player - and it worked! What doesn't work, though, is the menu. It lives a kind of half-life as a video clip a few seconds long, so it's there but it's not a menu. When the player has loaded the disc, the contents of the root folder are displayed instead: a file named "VIDEO*TS" and 4 files named "VTS*01*1" through "VTS*01*4". "VIDEO*TS" is the menu; "VTS*01*1" contains the first four-and-a-half of altogether 9 video clips (the first of which is without any audio), "VTS*01*2" contains the rest of the 4th clip, the 5th and part of the 6th, "VTS*01*3" the rest of the 6th, the 7th and part of the 8th, "VTS*01*4" the rest of the 8th clip. Obviously there's no need to have an individual file for each clip - they're supposed to be accessible from the menu.

In other words, everything is fine, except that the menu doesn't work and somehow the sound of the 1st video got lost. Now I'm racking my brains trying to understand what exactly went wrong.

Posted on 11 Dec 2007 at 12:28 in /technology. -- Permalink

Mon, 10 Dec 2007

Burning a DVD under Linux (1)

Now I've got enough stuff to fill a DVD, I'd like to burn a disc which our DVD player (for the TV set) will accept. I thought this was easy to do on a Mac, but B's computer keeps trying to persuade me that my .mpeg and .vob files, which my Ubuntu box can play without any problem, aren't video files. Sure they are, stupid OS X! Yet they're obviously not supported by Quicktime, iDVD and what have you. Hmm ...

I'm now trying dvdauthor - and, because I know so little about MPEG, DVD, burning etc., I'm going for the GUI (qdvdauthor), too. I'm not sure if Brasero can burn DVDs which will play in a DVD player. The catchily named growisofs looks promising: I love command-line software! But first of all, I want a DVD which I can actually use. And time is running out - two more days before we leave for Germany.

Posted on 10 Dec 2007 at 18:57 in /technology. -- Permalink

Sun, 09 Dec 2007

Video editing: Kino (2)

I've used Kino a lot these last few days - it's an excellent program. In contrast to Cinelerra, everything is available in one window, which in my view makes it easier to use. The window has several tabs, they provide functions such as editing, trimming, exporting etc. When you change between editing (where you see your whole project) and trimming (where you can work on an individual snippet and cut out whatever doesn't quite please you), your position in the project doesn't change: switching back and forth between these two views/functions is seamless.

Kino has crashed on me once but I could restart it without a hitch and it automatically restored the project I'd been working on, including all changes I had made - even the last one, which had somehow caused the crash.

The only thing I find a bit awkward in Kino is that you can't add several files to your project at once. You have to click "Insert" and then pick a file for every single piece of video you want to include. (Or maybe I just haven't found out how to add more than one piece at a time?)

(My earlier post.)

Posted on 09 Dec 2007 at 11:39 in /technology. -- Permalink

Sat, 08 Dec 2007

FTP preserving file attributes

In order to preserve files attributes when downloading them over FTP, simply tar them, then download the tar file. It seems you can't do anything interesting without shell access ...

Posted on 08 Dec 2007 at 10:54 in /technology/internet. -- Permalink

Fri, 07 Dec 2007

Relative links in Blosxom (4): fixed

The version of the rename command on my remote server is from 2000 or so and doesn't understand perl expressions. Instead, it works like "from to file".
So I had to change the last line of my script to:

rename txt.new txt *.new

I then ran the script in each directory. Now everything seems OK. Good-bye, relative paths!

Posted on 07 Dec 2007 at 16:40 in /technology/internet/blosxom. -- Permalink


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